This image comes from a much more detailed article about TripAdvisor, written two years ago (and well worth reading). What started as a type of extortion directed at hotels and restaurants back then has now extended to include local tour operators.
I recently noticed that the listing info on my TA pages, such as website links, phone numbers and email addresses, had disappeared. I also dropped 3 ranking spots overnight. Also, you can no longer answer direct questions from readers with any of that information in it – just like on AirBnB it gets filtered out.
So now only people who list their tours with Viator (TripAdvisor’s online booking app), and pay them a 25% commission, will end up with top ranking. They are also going to start factoring in monthly Viator commission earnings into their ranking algorithm, so the people paying the most commissions to TA will end up on top.
Well, I certainly can’t afford to pay a 25% commission to these bloodsuckers. For each tour I already pay 21% VAT, 15% income tax, admin fees, guide fees, and of course all that fabulous food and drink. My profit margin does not allow me to give 1/4 of it away to TripAdvisor just so I will show up at the top of their lists. Yes, I could put up my prices like many have… except, no way am I going to do that. I am totally against ripping off my guests just to appease that greedy beast, even though I know it would probably bring me more “traffic” and tours.
I can only hope that discerning travellers are going to see through this vile ruse. Many already tell me that when they see promoted Google ads they go right past them and look for the organic search results, even up to 3-4 pages. Happily I am still on the first page when people google “tapas tours seville”. Likewise, I think people are going to realise that the listed TripAdvisor “top food tour companies” in Sevilla and elsewhere are simply those who have paid to be there and have nothing to do with genuine quality.
Equally vile to me is when I see new-on-the-scene corporate food tour companies in Sevilla boasting that they “promote small local business”. No. They don’t. It’s obviously the other way round – these companies wouldn’t have a job without the bars. All the places I go to on my tours don’t actually need my business – they are all thriving family-run establishments that are always packed out. Though these days many of them are often full of copycat food tour groups, which is actually destroying what made these places special in the first place. I’ve even heard of one company that demands that bars PAY THEM to bring in tapas tour clients. WTF? It’s like living in the Upside Down.
So much greed. So little integrity. Me? I’m holding my own and working on ways to develop my food and wine experiences so that people can pay honest prices and get the best quality I can offer, as well as allowing me to make a living. I am playing the long game, even though at my age I’m not sure how long that game will actually be. These short-term opportunists disgust me, and I am certainly not going to play their game. Well, let’s see what happens.